Random thoughts on Robot – Chitti Chitti Bang Bang

Some random thoughts on the latest offering of the Super Star:
1) It seems this is the first Rajni film in long time where the entry scene of Rajni did not feature
a) Someone being beaten up through a hybrid of aerial kung fu and Indian dishoom dishoom accompanied by a galaxy of dhingchak sound effects.
b) A cigarette being thrown in the air in such a way that it fell perfectly between the lips of the Sooper Star.
c) A kickass dialogue being delivered.
d) Goggles being deposited on the ears in a way not comprehended or visualized by mere mortals.
In a way, the entry scene without any drama signified to us that this is no normal Rajni film. Never has so much been spoken by a simple scene in a masala film before.

2) Aishwarya Rai plays the role of a medical student. While she is as plasticky as ever, the lines on her face makes you think that she would have been better off playing the role of a teacher.

3) The pace of the first half is quite sedate. However it does the job of setting up the character of Chitti. The lovely special effects are like cherry on a cake.

4) Just special effects are not enough. You need vision and Shankar’s past films have shown that he does not lack it. In Robot he has surpassed his past films. The “Rajni converting into devi avtaar through electro magnetism” scene is something only mavericks like him can think of.

5) All our Hindi film hot shot directors should watch this film. Just to understand that you can be as modern as you want without leaving out the traditional Indian masala ingredients. A Hindi version would have been based in the USA (cough, KJo, cough). The hero would have been eating pizza rather than Indian food. The entire burning building scene had a nice mix of good special effects and a touch of Indian masala. You may not agree with the poor girl’s decision (Heck, I do not) but at least something related to Indian values (regressive, yes, but still) was being shown. Where do you find this in your typical high budget Bollywod film? (Hirani’s films being an exception.)

6) The mosquito scene was so ourtrageous that one could not stopping laughing. Only one word to describe it – trippy.

7) Chitti questioning his creator about why he is not allowed to love is a variation of a theme seen in sci fi films like Blade Runner and the works of literary giants like Isaac Asimov. I just loved that someone for once did not take the Indian audience for granted and included such a complex plot point.

8) Technically speaking, the film was a huge surprise. In a positive way. Chitti’s superpowers were explained scientifically. One can ignore the mosquito scene as it was too hilarious to take seriously.

9) If the special effects were great in the first half, they were jaw dropping awesome in the second. While the budget is humongous at around Rs. 150 crores plus, by Hollywood standards it (approx. $30 mn.) is strictly low budget. If with such money, such good effects were produced, then surely the film can be shown abroad to attract more business from outside for our VFX chaps.

10) Saw Danny on the big screen after a long time. Curiously, most of his dialogues seemed to be in Hindi as in he spoke Hindi rather than his voice being dubbed later in Hindi. No idea how it came across in the Tamil version with the Star speaking in Tamil and Danny speaking in Hindi.

11) And yes, all this money would not have been well spent had it not been spent on the one and only Suuperr Star. Rajni is in almost all the scenes. He plays the scientist in a subtle way not going over the top. Even the “good” Chitti is understated with Rajni mouthing some hilarious lines with a straight face. It is when he is the “bad” Chitti that Rajni unleashes. He seems to have relished the oppurtunity to be bad again and virtually chews the scene with his acting. He is so good that you find yourself rooting for him even when he is bumping off policemen by the dozens. You can see why the masses love him. Here he is playing three differant personalities (scientist, good chitti and bad chitti) and he is able to play them differantly and more importantly, make us believe that these are three differant personalities. I bow down to thee, Rajnikant. Oops, Super Star Rajnikant.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Wall Street – Greed is Still Good…just about.

“Greed is good”, so said Gordon Gekko played masterfully (enough to be deigned the best for the year by the Academy) by Micheal Douglas in Wall Street. That film, directed by Oliver Stone became a big success not just financially but also in developing a sustained following. It is recommended viewing for every management graduate. It inspired a lot of Americans to become stockbrokers. It talked about insider trading and scams and became relevant for Indians after Harshad Mehta became “famous”. Wall Street was a phenomenon in itself. What it lacked was a sequel. Until now.

Wall Street – Money never sleeps (title inspired by a dialogue in the original film, go look out for it) follows Gordon Gekko as he completes his jail term and walks out. That he is out of sync with the world is beautifully symbolized by the prison warden giving him his famous 1980s model brick sized cell phone back. He walks out of the prison, looking for someone near and dear to pick him up. He finds noone. He feels disowned by everyone he knew (a scene whose relevance is known later). The focus then shifts to the character of Shia LeBouf, a trader at Wall Street engaged to Gekko’s daughter, a liberal blogger who hates her father. LeBouf is given a fat bonus by his boss cum mentor. One can guess what happens next. His bank (people call it a homage to Lehman Bros. I believe it is more close to Bear Stearns) collapses. It is taken over by a consortium of banks for a pittance. The mentor commits suicide. Here Stone has done well not to show the mentor as fully innocent. His bank is shown as holding a huge portfolio of sub prime holdings. The only thing wrong done on him was that this information was leaked prematurely. The work being of an old rival played by Josh Brolin who takes over the bank. Brolin seems to be playing the Gekko of the original.

So what is the real Gekko doing?

The real Gekko is now a writer on the financial market. He is shown as predicting the imminent crash. People call him soothsayer. I say, he is one of many who knew about the crash. He just has nothing to lose by revealing it. He is shown as living in a rented place and not being to afford to attend a charity ball. His anguish at not having the power he used to wield earlier is beautifully portrayed by Douglas. Douglas gives a speech titled “Is Greed good?” at LeBouf’s alma mater. He talks about the ills of the markets of today and the cancer known as leverage. He talks of the fancy names given to products which according to him are the same – the tools to fool everyone. Elsewhere he says “The Bulls make money, the Bears make money, the Pigs die”. One may think he is repenting his sins. However as Brolin later mentions in the film, is he ranting due to not enjoying the fruits of the con anymore? Anyhow, Gekko is approached by LeBouf regarding the crash and the reason for his mentor’s suicide. Gekko agrees to help only if LeBouf helps him in mending his relationship with his daughter. The trade is agreed upon.

Then one more crash. This one mirrors that which affected big fish like Goldman Sachs. Now Brolin goes to the Feds with a begging bowl. This time he is hopeful of getting a good deal because they are big. If they go down, the economy goes down. Very apt.

Somehow in the middle of documenting the 2008 crash, the revenge drama is sidelined. It picks up steam only in the last 30 minutes and gets resolved very abruptly and conveniently. Here the power of the blog is shown albeit very sketchily. It seems that Stone had a good story ready when somehow somewhere someone had an idea of mixing it with the entire 2008 story. The result is a strange screenplay which does not know what it is – a revenge drama or a docu drama.

However this does not mean that the film is not entertaining and informative. It des document the 2008 crash adeptly and should act as a good reference point, a good case study for business school if they want to revisit the Lehman – Sachs story. There are a lot of cameos in the film. Charlie Sheen replays his character in a memorable scene with Douglas. There is Warren Buffet spouting his gyaan. I would say that Douglas’s ideas and thoughts were inspired by him. Susan Sarandon plays LeBouf’s mother, a real estate agent (stock broker, blogger, real estate agent – LeBouf’s family covers all the players involved in the 2008 crash. A tad unrealistic.) who is clearly sold to the great real estate dream and does what Gekko warns us against – leverages hopelessly. Her last line is so typical of the American who has taken the dream for granted. LeBouf as the protagonist is adequate. However I still do not get why he is pronounced the chosen one by eminent filmmakers like Spielberg and Oliver Stone.

However as in the original, it is the Gekko who is the man to watch out for. Douglas slips into the boots of the character quite effortlessly after a gap of 20 years. He plays the role of an old, wounded tiger who is out to reclaim his kingdom with ease. He is the one who makes this sequel work. Hope we get another Wall Street soon. And not have to wait 20 years for it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New post for Bored

A senti post on today’s sad happenings in the cricket world for Bored

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Pune Phataka

The last time I visited Pune was a decadeand half ago.
Around that time, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun was still running in Liberty.
Around that time, Sunny Deol had natural hair and was winning National Awards.
Around that time, Azhar was captain of the Indian team and Vinod Kambli was the next big thing.
Around that time, baggy pants were considered the in thing.
Around that time, Star Sports was called Prime Sports, Star Plus was all English and Baba Sehgal ruled MTV and Channel V.
Around that time, Narasimha Rao was running the country and Rahul baba was probably running around trees with his Colombian girlfriend.
What I am saying is that 15 odd years is enough for a lot of change to happen. Logically, I should have expected the cultural capital of Maharashtra to change too. However this is Pune, the pride of Maharashtrians, the centre of the grreat Maratha rule and the home of the famous Puneri Paatyas. For a city with a rich history of over 4 centuries, a city proud of its 4 centruies plus history, 15 years is peanuts. So not much change was expected.

Could not be more wrong.

The Pune of the early 90s was a sedate city with not many avenues of entertainment. It was a senior citizen city in that quite a few of retires, well, retired to this city. Every afternoon, the city came to a standstill since it was time for the afternoon siesta. And the people could be rude. Which is symbolized by the writing on the famous paatyas. Google Puneri Paatyas, get a person fluent in Marathi translate it for you (if you are not Marathi versed) and then lie back and marvel at the sharp wit and “do not give a shit” attitude of the Puneri shopkeeper.

The Pune of 2010 is vastly differant. Due to the IT explosion, a lot of business has come here. This has led to the city getting a sort of facelift. The place has become a virtual phataka. I counted around 9 eateries of different genres in and around my hotel. The mall next to the hotel has a food court and a swanky Big cinema multiplex. The crowd is young. The air was full of energy.

However do not forget the centuries old history. Some things still are the same. People still seem to get out to have breakfast at 8 in the morning. The pace is not breakneck like Mumbai. The quality of life is not compromised by the increase in professionalism. Senior citizens are still around and seem to have fun. I saw some of them playing chess in a CCD. Perfect mix of the old and the new. And the paatyas still remain glorious though few. And good old Chitale Bandhu still shuts down during siesta time.

Pune seems to have assimilated the winds of change rather than getting bogged down by it. I wish that Mumbai coud learn a little from its neighbour. Pune does not seem to be a bad place to live in.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Hiatus

Blog on temporary sabbatical due to too much work. And lack of net access.
Will be back this week. With stories on my first ever overseas visit. Dubai is a fascinating place and merits a long post.
Till then, my Twitter page is there for your entertainment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The filmy series – 1 Tridev

I love masala films. People may call them bloated or trash or a melodramatic collage of disjointed scenes full of song and dance setpieces. However I have grown up on them and am fond of them however contrived and illogical they may turn up to be.
When I was around seven years old, there were no film channels. Doordarshan had a monopoly over the airwaves. Our evenings were spent watching “Aamchi Maati Aamchi Maansa” and when we were lucky, “Giant Robot”. There were no multiplexes. Theatres were supposed to be occupied by the rowdies and we were forbidden from going there (My first film on theatre was Sholay in a matinee show…post on that later). You can say that watching films during my early years was tough.
In 1989, my father bought home a VCR (no CD players then). This machine bought the movies to our homes. Of course Doordarshan used to show films every Saturday and Sunday. However they were mostly old films of the 60s and 70s. Through the VCR, we could see movies that had just released (then there was no funda of films being released on CD/video cassette after the theatre run had ended.). The first movie we saw on the VCR is the one which I have chosen to start this small series on my favourite masala Hindi flicks – Tridev.

Paap se dharti hili...

Paap se dharti hili...


The story of the film is the basic heroes fighting against the evil smuggler flick with some twists. The film opens with a dramatic voice over by Naseeruddin Shah. “Naseer who” was my question to the parents. “Arre he is a famous art film actor”, was their response. I was to know later that Mr. Shah is one of the greatest actors with some of the finest films in his repertoire. But for a seven year old, he was just the good looking, well built dude with an awesome moustache. Once the credits roll we are introduced to the main villain (the late great Amrish Puri at his menancing best) conveniently sharing with his henchmen (and us) the mission statement and key objectives of Bhujang and Co. The best masala films are those which are easy to understand. We are supposed to leave our brains at homes, you see (or if you are watching on VCR, shut them off) and just enjoy.

Then we have the entry of the “1st Dev”, Sunny Deol. This was Sunny in his pre “dhaai kilo ka haath” phase when he was known as just a good looking action star and not the “One Man Army with the glass shattering voice pitch” that he is considered now. Hence, here we mercifully have Deol with the decibel level down. Deol throws his punch in the first scene itself showing us all that he is an incorruptible police officer. Cue celebrations over his bravery where we are introduced to the Police Commissioner, Deol’s judge father (who you know is going to get conked off), other sundry family characters and the love interest (Madhuri Dixit before her “Numero Uno” phase). We then have the entry of the 2nd Dev – Jackie Shroff (when he was handsome and bereft of a double chin). Here the film slightly deviates from the pattern giving Shroff an anti hero persona making his character very interesting (of course, the character straightens out in the second half. It is a masala film!!). Shroff is shown as the black sheep with his father, the Commissioner (Anupam Kher) disapproving of him. Introductions of the main characters (bar the 3rd Dev) over, the film goes into auto mode with the hero fighting against the smugglers catching one of them (Dalip Tahil as the phirangi) and taking him into court. However, the smuggler has an ace up his sleeve. He frames the poor chap and makes it seem like he is the rotten one!! To top it off, he makes his father pass the judgement. To top that top off, he gets the dad killed with us having to endure the scene of Sunny paji crying holding dear daddy’s feet as he “hangs” in there (atrocious pun. Sorry).
Poor Sunny paji is transferred to a small village. Cue entry of the 3rd Dev (Naseeruddin Shah). He is the “gaon ka chaila” who woos an actress shooting in their village (Sonam. How many remember her?) and gets a bit part in the film wherein he sings the legendary song “Oye Oye”. I remember the craze that song created. Pity the song was a rip off of a Gloria Estefan song. However, there was no cable TV and the chori was no “pakdofied”.

Rhythm Is Gonna Get .... sorry, Oye Oye!!


Anyways, Dev No. 1 and 3 clash over a supposed crime. Sunny Paji gets to know of Oye boy’s innocence. Oye man’s father was a freedom fighter turned school master (ahh, that old masala film symbol of morals) who was killed by a dacoit who turns out to be our smuggler (Inexplicable coincidence No.1!!). The two become chums. However, how could a masala film go on without causing more misery for our heroes. Sunny paji is woken up mid sleep by the goons of Bhujang led by, shock, gasp, Dev No. 2!! They proceed to tie him up and burn his house (why cannot they just shoot him up and then burn the house?). Dev No. 2 throws a knife at Dev No. 1 giving him a way to escape (and us the hint that he ain’t bad after all). By the way Dev No. 2 became part of Bhujang’s gang after saving his brother. There he is united with his love interest (Mrs. Azharuddin now, Sangeeta Bijlani then) who has her own agenda. Anyways, Oye boy thinking his friend being dead goes to Mumbai to take revenge (without knowing who killed his chum. Our heroes do not plan ahead). However Sunny paji cannot be killed (this was true even then) He also promises himself (and us) to wreak vengeance. Interval!! Till now, your brain is spinning with so much happening that you just cannot think. Hence the phrase “Leave your brains out”.
In Mumbai, Oye boy runs into who else, but the actress (In a city of millions, for such an improbable thing to happen, you gotta be in Bollywood universe). He is appointed as her bodyguard by her politician father (another masala film symbol – but of corruption) who is a close firend of, shock, gasp, Bhujang (Inexplicable coincidence no. 2). Sunny paji meanwhile becomes a cabbie (how he arranged for a cab and a taxi driver permit when he is supposedly dead is something which should not be asked). Sunny paji does wreck vengeance and leads to the villains getting miserable this time. An action masala film is always about misery. In the first half the good guys are miserable. In the second half, the baddies get miserable. He meets Jackie in one of his misery inducing mission while a Ms. Azharuddin item song is going on (kids, before Shilpa Shetty came on to loot UP and Bihar in Shool, it was the duty of the heroines to shake their booty thereby creating some major continuity issues. In the pre climax song, we have Madhuri madam dancing in skimpy attire while she is clad in Punjabi dresses all this while in the movie. Very inconsistent. Par kya kare, janta ki demand hai).

3 Deviyans - In item song garb.


Jackie explains to Sunny (and us) that he is eating Bhujang and Co. from the inside and they both join hands. The baddies are almost bankrupted by these two and have to resort to looting a bank. There they are engaged by the twosome in a shootout. Present in the bank is Oye boy and his actress. Nasserji had overheard the robbery scheme and is out to show the actress the “kaali kartoot” of her would be husband (well, she is engaged to one of Bhujang’s son against her wishes.). Why Naseerji would want to put her life at risk just to prove a point is not to be asked. In the shootout, Bhujang’s bachcha is killed and a disconsolate Bhujang sets up a meeting with Sunnyji. There all the secrets are revealed to everyone but us (since we already know them). The 3 Devs finally meet up together. Bhujang though thinks up a dastardly scheme wherein he gets the Devs arrested (through the politician) and kidnaps the Commissioner (remember him?) and his troop. The scene is set for the Dev – cop transfer i.e. the climax. The aforementioned item song plays out and meanwhile the Devs escape. It is a good strategy of the director to have the story progress even while the song goes on. That way, no time for the audience to even contemplate thinking.
Cue the climax. Fighting starts. Sunny paji on a horse. Jackie on a bike. Naseer with a dastardly sword. From where they collected these items is a mystery. Three against the entire Bhujang and Co. Still you have the good boys winning. because the villains suffer from the climax syndrome. Their aim goes bonkers with the heroes dodging even the close range shots. They forget to attack the good guys together. They basically through their actions yell “aa Bail mujhe maar!!”. Which the goodies proceed to do. In the end we have Bhujang being punched by our 3 Gods while the Naseer voiceover bellows. The baddie is put out of is misery. The end.

While full of loopholes, coincidences and inconsistencies, Tridev is a real fun watch. The pace is fast and the film has a sleek look. It was supposed to be one of the slickest films produced till then. The acting by the cast was serviceable. The three main leads were good in that they actually made you care for them. Naseeruddin Shah in his first corny role (he had played the lead in an earlier masala film,Jalwa but that was more a Hollywood style film with him having to show some real acting chops) For a seven year old kid like me who was not yet exposed to the marvel that was the Terminator films, Tridev remained the benchmark against which all the other action films were judged. Well, until I saw the film I would talk about in the next installment of this, the filmy series.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The inscrutable bunch

– A player who has made retiring and unretiring a hobby of sorts.
– A player accused of tampering the pitch / ball / both who is appointed captain.

Read the rest here.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized